Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Aladdin Paperbacks: The First Magnificent Summer by R.L. Toalson

Del Rey Books: Thief Liar Lady by D.L. Soria

Chronicle Books: Is It Hot in Here (or Am I Suffering for All Eternity for the Sins I Committed on Earth)? by Zach Zimmerman

First Second: Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Harvest Publications: The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide to Food with Friends by Natasha Feldman

Wednesday Books: Guardians of Dawn: Zhara (Guardians of Dawn #1) by S. Jae-Jones

Quotation of the Day

The Importance of Books for President Obama

President Obama and author Marilynne Robinson in conversation at the Iowa State Library, Des Moines, September 2015 (photo: Pete Souza/White House)

"Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.... And so I think that I found myself better able to imagine what's going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of not just a specific novel but the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.

"And then there's been the occasion where I just want to get out of my own head. [Laughter] Sometimes you read fiction just because you want to be someplace else...."

"At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted, the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else's shoes--those two things have been invaluable to me. Whether they've made me a better president, I can't say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn't let up."

--President Barack Obama, in a front-page New York Times story yesterday entitled "Obama's Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books"

Blackstone Publishing: All Is Not Forgiven by Joe Kenda


Interabang Books Opening in Dallas in May

In May, Nancy Perot, Jeremy Ellis and Lori Feathers plan to open Interabang Books in Dallas, Tex. The 5,000-square-foot store will carry more than 12,000 titles in a variety of categories, with a focus on fiction, children's books and creative nonfiction. The store will have a flexible event space with seating for up to 100 people and a children's stage for weekly story times and other programs. Interabang Books will be located at the corner of Preston Road and Royal Lane.

Interabang Books: Lori Feathers, Jeremy Ellis and Nancy Perot (photo: Jake Harris)

Ellis, a longtime independent bookseller and most recently general manager of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, will be general manager of Interabang Books. He began his career at Taylors Books in Dallas in 1994 and then was marketing director at BookPeople in Austin. He is currently a member of the board of directors for the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association.

Feathers will be the store's book buyer. A former corporate lawyer, she reviews books for several publications, is an assistant managing editor for Asymptote and serves on the Resident Reading Committee for Carve magazine. She is on the board of the National Book Critics Circle and is a judge for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award.

Perot, daughter of Ross Perot, has been imagining an independent bookstore in Dallas for more than 25 years. "Dallas is a very literary city and every great city needs great independent bookstores to enrich the community and support literacy efforts," she said. "If you are a book lover, nothing compares to the experience of being in a really wonderful bookstore. When Jeremy and I were introduced, everything just started falling into place as though it was meant to be."

Interabang Books' name comes from an old printmaker's term for a punctuation mark that combines a question mark and an exclamation point. "When we were discussing our vision for the store, 'discovery' and 'excitement' were words that came up again and again," Ellis said. "The interabang symbol exemplified our essential idea."

KidsBuzz for the Week of 03.27.23

Bookstore Opens in West Chester, Pa.

Michael Fortney has opened a bookstore in the West Goshen Shopping Center, West Chester, Pa., site of the former Chester County Book Co., the Daily Local reported. Fortney was a longtime bookseller at Chester County and brother-in-law of the store's owner Kathy Simoneaux Fortney, who closed the business last July.

"I'm a townie. West Chester not having a bookstore? Didn't seem like a good idea to me," said Michael Fortney.

The new store, which is not affiliated with the previous operation, is initially placing "more emphasis on discount pricing on older stock," with Fortney and a partner working with American Book Co. of Knoxville, Tenn. The bookshop can special order what it doesn't have in stock and carries "tons of audiobooks" as well as print books, according to Fortney.

Currently the business is operating under the name West Chester Books, but that could change. "I may run a contest on the Facebook page" to give it a new name, he said. "Our Facebook page is doing very well." Fortney also noted that "the response has been phenomenal. I've had people cry. I've had people come in and hug me. It's been great, just great." He hopes in the future to bring back some of the features of its predecessor, including author visits, poetry readings and story times. "I'm open to anything the customers might want. I'm listening to them."

Fortney expressed optimism for the future of bookstores generally: "There have been 400 to 500 a year popping up across the country for the last few years. I can't imagine a town without a bookstore. I think bookstores are important to the community. People want a place to come and meet, and a place to run into each other. There's a lot of that going on here."


David Didriksen's Willow Books Closing in Mass.

After 20 years in business, Willow Books, Acton, Mass., is closing because owner David Didriksen has decided to retire, according to Didriksen had put the store up for sale in 2014 but was unable to find a buyer.

Asked about owning the store, Didriksen said, "It was a great experience, it was wonderful, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I was very fortunate. I got tremendous support from the community, really from day one. I had a very supportive landlord. I've had great staff. There have been hundreds of people who've worked here over the years and they've almost all been terrific, wonderful people. And I got to own my own business. I worked for other people for 20 years and I'd rather work for myself than for other people. It's had its challenges, but it's been great....

"My family was involved early on when we opened, so there are a lot of memories here. So I'd rather go out while I can do stuff and not have them carry me out of here."

Didriksen plans to devote "more time to playing in his musical bands, consulting with other small businesses, kayaking on the Concord River and traveling with his wife, Susan," wrote. He plans to continue to be a member of Acton's Economic Development Committee and on the board of directors for the Retail Association of Massachusetts.

Bookstore Sales Up 1.5% in November, Up 3.4% for Year to Date

November bookstore sales rose 1.5%, to $805 million, compared to November 2015, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau.

This marked the ninth month this year that bookstore sales have increased compared to the same period a year earlier. The only off months were July, down 0.9%, and October, down 1%.

For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 3.4%, to $10.576 billion.

Total retail sales in November rose 5.4%, to $468.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 3.1%, to $4,963 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."

Sisler Retiring as Head of Harvard University Press

William P. Sisler

William P. Sisler, the director of Harvard University Press for nearly 27 years, is retiring at the end of this academic year.

During Sisler's tenure, the press has published books by winners of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award and scholars including Stephen Jay Gould, E.O. Wilson, Amartya Sen, Catharine MacKinnon, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, Bruno Latour, Mary Beard and Thomas McCraw. He also oversaw the publication of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a historical analysis of the dynamics driving the distribution of wealth in Europe and the U.S. that became a bestseller and has sold more copies than any book in the press's history.

Sisler guided the expansion of the press in Europe, establishing an independent U.K. office. The press and its partners also launched the digital Loeb Classical Library, the open-access electronic Emily Dickinson Archive, the electronic Dictionary of American Regional English and the Murty Classical Library of India.

Sisler received a Ph.D. in classics from Johns Hopkins University in 1977 and a master's degree in administrative science, also from Johns Hopkins, in 1983. After working as a senior acquisitions editor for Johns Hopkins University Press, he served as executive editor and v-p at Oxford University Press before coming to Harvard University Press in 1990.

Obituary Notes: Dave Dutton; William Peter Blatty

photo: Gloria Hillard/NPR

Bookseller Dave Dutton, who ran the landmark Dutton's Books from 1961--when he agreed to put aside his travels in Europe to help manage a bookstore his parents were launching in Los Angeles--until he and his wife, Judy, closed their North Hollywood store 10 years ago, died January 13. He was 79. The Los Angeles Times reported that "over the years, he opened shops in other locations but it was the Laurel Canyon store that lasted.... In the mid 1970s, his parents retired and he and Judy took over ownership of Dutton's. They expanded its footprint and its offerings, and eventually filled the space with 350,000 new and used titles. The store was known for its labyrinthine layout and towering stacks of books."

"My dad loved not only literature, but he loved people, and our bookstore was a place for everybody in Los Angeles to gather, and to browse, or just to hang out," said his son, Dirk. "My dad was never in it for the money. He just loved talking books and having fun at the store." His younger brother, Doug, assumed ownership of Dutton's Brentwood in the 1980s, running it until it closed in 2008.

When Dave Dutton was in the process of shuttering his bookstore in 2006, he reflected on the virtues of being an old-school bookseller: "The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn't like business, didn't admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise."


Author William Peter Blatty, "whose bestselling book The Exorcist was both a milestone in horror fiction and a turning point in his own career," died January 12, the New York Times reported. He was 89. The Exorcist (1971) sold more than 13 million copies, and a 1973 movie adaptation directed by William Friedkin was also a big hit, earning Blatty an Oscar for his screenplay.

The horror novel also "marked a radical shift" for his career, which he'd already established as one of Hollywood's leading comedy writers. Blatty had collaborated with the director Blake Edwards on the screenplays for four films, and wrote scripts for comedies starring Danny Kaye, Warren Beatty and Zero Mostel.

Blatty's first book, a memoir titled Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, had already been published when, in 1961, "he appeared as a contestant on You Bet Your Life, the television quiz show hosted by Groucho Marx. He and a fellow contestant won $10,000," the Times noted. The winnings freed him to quit his public relations job and become a full-time writer, which led to the publication of comic novels I, Billy Shakespeare (1965) and Twinkle, Twinkle, 'Killer' Kane (1966). In the Times, Marvin Levin had compared him favorably with S.J. Perelman.

After turning down an Exorcist sequel offer, Blatty submitted instead a memoir about his mother titled I'll Tell Them I Remember You. It was published in 1973, but Blatty soon "felt the first cinch of the horror-writing straitjacket," the Times noted. His later books include Legion, The Ninth Configuration and Dimiter. After the death of his son in 2006, he wrote Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death.


Image of the Day: PEN Writers Resist

More than 2,000 artists, writers and readers gathered with PEN America on the steps of the New York Public Library on Sunday to send a collective message to President-Elect Donald Trump. Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, U.S. Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky, playwright Eve Ensler, comic artist Art Spiegelman, and authors Jacqueline Woodson and PEN America president Andrew Solomon (pictured above) were among the throng who braved the cold. Coinciding with the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the event featured readings and performances inspired by the words of Civil Rights leaders and literary luminaries on democracy. The literary protest in New York City was the flagship event of Writers Resist, a national rallying effort organized by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts co-founder Erin Belieu. More than 90 Writers Resist events took place simultaneously in 40 states and and abroad. 

San Francisco: 'A City of Bookstores'

On his first trip to San Francisco in 1987, Grant Faulkner "had only one thing on my list. A friend told me that if I did just one thing in San Francisco, I had to go to City Lights (261 Columbus Avenue), a bookstore and publishing house owned by the doyen of the Beats, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I'd never be quite the same again." Faulkner, executive director of National Novel Writing Month and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, wrote about the Bay Area's "love affair with the roguish spirit of the Bay Area and its literary tribes of misfits, dropouts, and seekers" for Poets & Writers magazine.

Among the many highlights of the region, he singled out the Bay Area's "flowering garden of bookstores with distinct personalities," including Dog Eared Books ("the type of bookstore where you never know what you're going to find"), Borderlands ("you'll often see a group of people writing assiduously in a Shut Up & Write meetup there"), Green Apple ("looks upon the Richmond district like an avidly curious and beloved kooky professor"), the Booksmith ("offers comfy browsing in the Haight") and Bound Together Bookstore (where "the old San Francisco anarchist spirit is alive and well"). In Berkeley, Faulkner highlighted the Pegasus stores ("I spend many hours combing the shelves for biblio surprises as my kids roam the children's section") and Moe's Books ("a venerable indie institution since 1959").

Faulkner conceded that it's "impossible to name all of my favorites," before adding to the list Mrs. Dalloway's ("could be cast as the charming community bookstore in a movie"), Books Inc. ("hosts an overflowing calendar of readings and a number of cool programs for kids"), Book Passage ("which probably hosts the most author events and classes in the Bay Area"), Kepler's ("with its dedicated staff of book lovers") and Castle in the Air ("my favorite place for sumptuous journals and whimsical, fantasy writing supplies").

Personnel Changes at the Monacelli Press

Jaime Nelson Noven has joined the Monacelli Press as publicity and marketing manager. She was formerly a publicist at Princeton Architectural Press.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jewel on Harry

Conan: Michael Lewis, author of The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds (Norton, $28.95, 9780393254594).

NBC's Harry: Jewel, author of Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story (Blue Rider, $16, 9780399185724).

Tonight: Nick Offerman, author of Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop (Dutton, $35, 9781101984659).

TV: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

AMC "is back in the John le Carré adaptation business," Indiewire noted in reporting that "the network, which just won three Golden Globes for its miniseries The Night Manager, will next tackle le Carré's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold." The project is a co-production between AMC and the BBC, with the Ink Factory. In a press release, le Carré said he had "great confidence in the team."

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) is adapting the 1963 novel, with an anticipated air date sometime in 2018. The book was previously adapted as a 1965 film starring Richard Burton, Claire Bloom and Oskar Werner.

Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Finalists; Plutarch Nominees; Arabic Fiction Longlist

The National Book Critics Circle has unveiled 30 finalists in six categories--autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry--for the best books of 2016. The awards will be presented March 16 in New York City.

Also NBCC announced that Margaret Atwood has won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement and said, in part, "Her lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include groundbreaking fiction, environmental and feminist activism, and service to community as a cofounder of the Writers' Trust of Canada."

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf) has won the John Leonard Prize, which recognizes "outstanding first books in any genre."

Michelle Dean has won the 2016 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. NBCC wrote that "Dean's journalism and criticism appears regularly in the Guardian, the New Republic, and a host of other venues. Originally trained as a lawyer, she has been a full-time writer since 2012. Her book about women critics and intellectuals, titled Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic."


Ten titles have been nominated for this year's Plutarch Award, an award for a biography that is chosen by fellow biographers, members of BIO. The nominees are:

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye
The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship by Alex Beam
Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey by Frances Wilson
His Final Battle: The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt by Joseph Lelyveld
Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich
John Aubrey, My Own Life by Ruth Scurr
Kafka: The Early Years by Reiner Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band by Simon Callow
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin


The longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 has been announced. To see the 16 titles, click here. The shortlist will be announced on February 16, and the winner on April 25.

Book Review

Review: The Not-Quite States of America

The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA by Doug Mack (W.W. Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9780393247602, February 14, 2017)

What exactly is a U.S. territory? Do residents of the territories have the same rights and privileges as those who live in the 50 states? Should the U.S. even have territories if it calls itself a democracy? Stumped by these and other questions, travel writer Doug Mack hops on a plane (eventually several) to delve into the convoluted histories and uncertain futures of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico. Mack recounts his adventures, sharing stories of the people he meets and pondering the big questions of what it means to be an American, in his second book, The Not-Quite States of America.

Mack (Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day) begins his quest with a visit to the Virgin Islands. In his travels, he meets longtime residents and newcomers from the continental U.S., members of groups agitating for statehood and those mostly satisfied with the status quo--which is slightly different for each territory. Mack explains the complex and often conflicting histories of the territories, discussing U.S. imperialism (past and present), the concept of Manifest Destiny and the influence of other cultures (Japanese, Polynesian, Latin American) on the cultural identity and day-to-day life of each place. At every stage, he encounters paradoxes and contradictions, which are summed up in one phrase that applies to all the territories: "a tricky, burdensome dual identity." Part of the U.S. and yet distinctly their own, the territories are at times a thorn in the nation's side, but are inextricably linked to its past, present and future.

In light of recent immigration questions and racially charged political moments, Mack's book feels particularly timely. Not all the locals he meets on his travels are interested in statehood or even citizenship (some territories enjoy the latter privilege, some don't). But each territory, in its own way, wrestles constantly with a deeply relevant issue: "the question of how, exactly, we define what it means to be American, and who gets to set that definition."

Witty and thoughtful, with plenty of vibrant characters and vivid descriptions, The Not-Quite States of America is also a well-researched history and a highly enjoyable travelogue. Frequent fliers and armchair travelers alike will relish Mack's account and wonder where he's headed next. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: This entertaining and well-researched travelogue of U.S. territories explores what it means to be American.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Commander in Chief by Katy Evans
2. Separation Games by C.D. Reiss
3. Big Rock by Lauren Blakely
4. In Praise of the Bees by Kristin Gleeson
5. Real Good Man by Meghan March
6. Melt by Deborah Bladon
7. Lexie Starr Cozy Mysteries Boxed Set by Jeanne Glidewell
8. Full Package by Lauren Blakely
9. After We Fall by Melanie Harlow
10. And Then She Was Gone by Christopher Greyson

[Many thanks to!]

KidsBuzz: Highwater Press: Heart Berry Bling by Jenny Kay Dupuis, illus. by Eva Campbell
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